Healthy and Happy Trumps Everything Else?

Healthy and Happy Trumps Everything Else? April 15, 2011

I’ve written before about the ethical concerns raised by in vitro fertilization, and I continue to wonder how we as individuals can make choices that keep in mind the good of the community and not only our individual gain. As I wrote in October, after Robert Edwards won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on in vitro fertilization:

“I by no means want to diminish the joy that comes for parents who conceive children through IVF. Nor do I want to say that the ethical concerns cancel out the gift of those children. But it troubles me that with grave ethical concerns about the commodification of human life we rush forward. It troubles me to hear one writer, interviewed on NPR, say with what sounded like a shrug of her shoulders, that if we’re able to test for a blue-eyed boy, some day we’ll do that and that’s the kid who will survive.The individuals who use IVF generally, I trust, have excellent motives and simply want to start a family. But the cumulative and unintended consequences of those individual actions concern me. I can only hope that we as a culture will start to address the ethics and not just the emotions of this conversation.”

My friend Ellen Painter Dollar also writes about the ethical issues raised by IVF. In a new post on her blog, Choices that Matter, she has begun a series reviewing “myths” surrounding reproductive technology. Her post, “The ‘Happy Parents, Healthy Babies’ Argument,” is an excellent piece that explains why we shouldn’t assume that anything that makes us happier is therefore good. An excerpt from her piece:

“The New York Times wrote, “The objections [to IVF] gradually died away—except on the part of the Roman Catholic Church—as it became clear that the babies born by in vitro fertilization were healthy and that their parents were overjoyed to be able to start a family.” In other words, individuals’ happiness and health trumps moral inquiry.

Really? Just think about that as a moral argument for a minute: If something makes a particular group of people happy, and doesn’t have clear adverse health effects, it is beyond question.”

What do you think? What ethical concerns arise from IVF and other reproductive technologies?

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